Study Links Frequent Hot Flashes to Increased Risk of Hip Fracture

Patient Expert

I sometimes get dirty looks from some of my friends when we talk about the menopausal transition. They often describe horrendous hot flashes that come unexpectedly. I, on the other hand, have had very few hot flashes. In fact, I basically figured out that in my case these rare occurrences (which were always night sweats) were triggered by drinking certain types of alcohol, such as beer and vodka. Therefore, once I avoided those drinks, I quit having hot flashes (and yes, I consider myself fortunate).

Besides the challenge of being soaked with sweat at inopportune times, there are other reasons to be concerned if you experience a lot of hot flashes and night sweats. That's because research is suggesting that having lots of hot flashes may be linked to poor bone health.

A new study out of the University of California Los Angeles' David Geffen School of Medicine used data from 23,573 women who were participants in the Women's Health Initiative Clinical Trial. All of these women were between the ages of 50 and 79 and were tracked through annual visits over an eight-year period.   At the start of the study, the women were asked about their menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes and night sweats. Researchers then monitored the women for bone fractures. Additionally, 4,867 participants had their bone mineral density tested as part of a secondary study.

The researchers' analysis at the end of the study found that women who reported moderate or severe hot flashes at the start of the study were more likely to fracture a hip during the eight-year period than women who said they did not have these types of menopausal symptoms. Furthermore, the researchers found that women who had moderate or severe menopausal symptoms had lower bone mass density at the neck and spine during the follow-up period after the data was adjusted for age, body mass index and demographic factors.

Therefore, while it's really important for all women to focus on bone health as they reach middle age, it's even more imperative if you're a woman who regularly experiences hot flashes during the menopausal transition. Here are some things that you need to be sure you do:

  • Consume enough calcium and vitamin D.   If you're over the age of 51, you should aim to get 1,200 mg of calcium daily. The National Osteoporosis Foundation has created a chart that can help you estimate how much calcium you're getting from foods on a typical day. Additionally, by the time you reach 50, you should get between 800-1,000 IU daily of vitamin D.
  • Eat a diet that is rich in bone-healthy foods. These include collard greens, broccoli rabe, kale, soy beans, bok choy, dried figs, broccoli, oranges, canned sardines with bones, canned salmon with bones, shrimp, part-skim ricotta cheese, low-fat yogurt, milk, part-skim mozzarella, cheddar cheese, Greek yogurt, American cheese, feta cheese, cottage cheese, frozen yogurt, ice cream, Parmesan, fortified milk (almond, rice or soy), fortified juices, tofu that's prepared for with calcium, fortified waffle, fortified oatmeal, fortified English muffin, fortified cereal, frozen mac and cheese, frozen cheese pizza, pudding prepared with 2-percent milk,   and canned baked beans.
  • Exercise. While high-impact weight-bearing exercises like jogging and jumping rope can help build and maintain bones, this type of exercise can be problematic if you're at risk of breaking a bone. Therefore, you may want to include low-impact weight-bearing exercises such as walking or using an elliptical training machine. In addition, you should include muscle-strengthening exercises, such as lifting weights or doing exercises that use your body weight. You also should incorporate balance exercises, posture exercises and functional exercises that can help you continue with everyday activities.
  • Avoid smoking.* ** Limit alcohol consumption.**

Primary Sources for This Sharepost:

Endocrine Society. (2014). Hot flashes linked to increased risk of hip fracture.

National Osteoporosis Foundation. (ND). A guide to calcium-rich foods.

National Osteoporosis Foundation. (ND). Calcium and vitamin D: What you need to know.

National Osteoporosis Foundation. (ND). Exercise for strong bones.

National Osteoporosis Foundation. (ND). Steps to estimate your calcium intake.